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Guilt Upon Accusation

I sometimes wonder at the unbelievable stupidity, arrogance, and corruption displayed by politicians. Well, I suppose everyone does, but its rare to come across anything so obviously unfair and stupid as the proposed changes to copyright law in New Zealand which are supposedly designed to protect “artists” from piracy of their work.

Basically, the proposed law (which would come into force on 28 February 2009) would require the internet service providers to cut off a customer’s access to the internet, or shut down their server, when they are informed that that person is even suspected of piracy. There would be no need for proof. There would be no need for a trial of any kind. They would just be disconnected without further notice. Sure there would need to be more than one accusation but there’s nothing stopping multiple unsubstantiated accusations being made with no penalty for false accusations.

Many laws are unfair and primarily designed to protect the rich and powerful but this one would have to be the worst. How could politicians be so naive that they would even contemplate enacting such a totally unjustified and unfair law? I suppose the big business concerns, who have the most to gain, have many PR consultants (also known as professional liars) prepared to spin whatever story they need to in order to increase the power and wealth of their masters.

So what is this law trying to achieve? Its trying to stop file swapping of material like music and videos and therefore protect the income of people associated with those industries. The picture they want to emphasise is the poor, struggling song writer or movie maker who relies on income from media sales. Yes, that is partly true but the real income they are protecting is the huge margins the media companies make (many times what the artists make) for doing essentially nothing.

I don’t suppose you can blame them for effectively stealing from the public, exploiting the artists, and making heaps on money. People who are successful in big business don’t tend to get there because they act fairly, produce a good product, or give their customers what they want – they get to the top because they are greedy and unethical. Its hard to think of a worse industry in this regard than the music and movie distributers.

So you can’t blame the music industry executives but you can blame the politicians for listening to them. Surely its obvious they are simply protecting their corrupt revenue streams and surely its also obvious that politicians should be looking at what’s best for everyone, not just one small group.

The law would mainly protect big corporations but wouldn’t it also shut down a few pirates, who really shouldn’t be stealing copyrighted material, should they? Well, yes. It might shut down a few of these people, but it would very likely also affect many innocent people, and possibly companies as well.

For example, a computer affected by malware might distribute material without the owner’s knowledge (and one estimate indicates this situation occurs on 25% of computers). They would be disconnected from the internet without any opportunity to explain why. Is that fair? Or a person might use a file swapping program to distribute legal material. Again, they could be cut off. Doesn’t sound fair, does it? And anyone with any skill with computers (those who tend to do a lot of file swapping) would know how to disguise their activities anyway. So the innocent would suffer while the guilty continue without any problems. Sounds like a great law, doesn’t it?

If you think I’m exaggerating have a look at the incompetent efforts of the RIAA to shut down music pirates in the USA. They have prosecuted people who don’t even have computers and they have never won a single court case. These are the sort of people we are listening to when we formulate new laws? Doesn’t sound like a good way to formulate legislation to me!

We’ve had a recent change of government here so hopefully that will also result in a change of attitude over this law. It doesn’t require a brilliant analytical mind to see what’s happening. Maybe common sense will win in the end and this law will never see the light of day.

If you are concerned about this (everyone should be, whether they swap files or not) then sign the petition against Guilt Upon Accusation laws in New Zealand which has been started by the Creative Freedom Foundation. It can be signed on their website: at http://www.CreativeFreedom.org.nz.

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